By CHRISSY SMITH
Slidell Sports Editor
SLIDELL – For the fourth year in a row, Chris Duhon handed out five scholarships worth $5,000 each to local high school graduates.
Duhon graduated from Salmen High School and then attended Duke University on a basketball scholarship. He was then drafted into the National Basketball Association where he has played for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and most recently the Los Angeles Lakers. For nine years now, Duhon has been coming back to Slidell to give back to his community. Through his foundation, the Chris Duhon Stand Tall Foundation, more and more community events have been added year-after-year to give back to Slidell.
The scholarship presentation was held at the Northshore Harbor Center on Friday where the newest winners along with a number of previous winners were in attendance. Mary Zar was the keynote speaker for the event.
Scholarships were awarded to Slidell High School’s Christopher Michael Milligan, Lakeshore High School’s Leslie Malcolm Blades, Covington High School’s Giselle Callahan, Mandeville High School’s Jacob Daniel McKay, and Covington High School’s Desiree’ Nicole Williams.
Milligan is a recent graduate of Slidell High School where he earned a final GPA of 3.7 unweighted and 4.2 weighted. While at Slidell High, Milligan’s true love and natural talent for theater was outstanding. He is a serious student of the arts and has spent much time in training for the stage. He is also enrolled in the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, which he attends several hours each day.
Milligan will begin school in the fall at Marymount in New York, NY where he will pursue an acting and theater career. He is the son of Patrick and Kristie Milligan.
Blades is a recent graduate of Lakeshore High School where he earned a final GP of 3.2. While at Lakeshore, Blades was a member of the swim team, qualifying for the state swim meet and currently holds school records in the 200 individual medley relay, 200 Free style relay and 400 Free style relay. Blades was also a member of the baseball team for two years. He became president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2010.
Blades volunteers at “In His Hands Ministry,” which is a ministry that was started by his parents which reaches out to the elderly. This is a service that has helped Blades to realize how important it is to reach out to those who cannot help themselves.
“My college education will not only improve my personal life, but will also prepare me to provide for my family. With a degree in mechanical engineering, this will allow me to help improve the quality of love of others. I would like to further my education and enter New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to be able to work in the mission fields,” Blades said. “I am really honored to be given this award.”
Callahan is a recent graduate of Covington High School where she earned a final GPA of 4.39 weighted and 3.94 unweighted. While at Covington High School, Callahan was a four-year letterman on the varsity volleyball team, a member of the Covington High School cheer team for four years, National Honor Society for three years, Marching Lions, Foreign Language Club, Student Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes for two years. In the community, Callahan volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life and Toys-for Tots Toy drive each year.
When asked to choose a community service project that has impacted her life, Callahan said, “Being a volunteer for the Toys-for-Tots Toy giveaway each year is a service that I look forward to. It makes me happy to know that I am making a difference in the life a child during Christmas time.”
In the fall, Callahan will be attending Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La. where she will pursue a degree in chemical engineering. She is the daughter of T.A. and Mercy Callahan.
“Thank you for letting me be a part of this new family,” Callahan said.
McKay is a recent graduate of Mandeville High School where he earned a final GPA of 3.79.
While at Mandeville High, McKay was an all-state academic football award winner. He also won the Defensive Over-Achiever Award and was a two-time state 5A semi-finalist. McKay was a member of Mandeville High’s Talented Theater, National Honor Society, Big Brothers & Sisters Club, and Drama Club where he was one of the Lead Roles in The Spring Musical.
In addition, McKay had over 400 community service hours where he served as a member of Mandeville High School Service Club, Special Olympics, Food Bank Drives – just to name a few. He participated in cleanup projects for Hurricane Isaac in LaPlace and Madisonville and the Tornado Cleanup in Fayette County, Ala. McKay has performed many times for the Boys & Girls Club, Children’s Hospital and special needs schools with Mandeville High School Choir.
“I have been accepted at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where their motto is ‘Enter to learn; go forth to serve.’ The more education I can have, the better leader I can be and the more I can serve my community,” McKay said.
He plans to study business at BYU where he hopes to open gyms to help families stay healthy. He is the son of Rulon and Martha McKay.
“This is really going to help my family. I have to thank Mr. Chris Duhon. This is such a blessing,” McKay said.
Williams is a recent graduate of Covington High School where she earned a final GPA weighted 3.9 and unweighted 3.7.
While at Covington High, Williams was active as a cheerleader and Fellowship of Christian Athletes for four years, Honor Society, class officer and on the track team for three years. She was also a member of the Rising Professional Leaders of Tomorrow – Class of 2012 Graduate.
In the community, Williams volunteers at the St. Tammany Parish Library Summer Reading program, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity and the Covington Toys for Tots.
“Volunteering is significant because it is an expression of my care and contribution to cancer research but especially to the survivors. I take pride in walking in the honor of my cousin, Josie Calhoun,” Williams said.
She will begin school in the fall at University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she will study biology. She is the daughter of Jay and Battina Williams.
“Thank you to God first of all, and thank you to my parents for all their support, and Covington High School for giving me the knowledge to get this far,” Williams said.
Keynote speak Zar spoke after the awards were received. In 2010, Zar became the first person in her family to graduate from high school and attend college. She is currently on target to graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in May 2014, where she will earn a degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology.
Duhon spoke at the end of the event saying this all started as a hurricane relief fund.
“I wanted to help my hometown. We wanted to help because it’s not easy; it’s a tough road. Having a good support system is so important,” Duhon said.
The NBA player’s wife, Andrea, also spoke to the crowd.
“God really challenges us sometimes, but it’s OK, you will make it. I’m not from here, but it feels like I’ve been raised here. I love this place,” Andrea said.
The Stand Tall Foundation was formed in 1998. Duhon Hurricane Relief Fund became a chapter of the foundation to support his efforts in providing aid to his hometown of Slidell, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Duhon gave new life to the foundation and formed the Chris Duhon Stand Tall Foundation in 2007.